I’ve interviewed plenty of DJs over the years, but I’ve hardly ever had the chance to interview a club promoter, so I was keen to try and catch up with Kai who run’s Abode, one, if not the most popular house music party in London right now. I’d always noticed on socials that Kai was interestingly verbal about the scene so was keen to get an insight from the man himself ahead of a Secret Abode event on the 16th January on the 28th Floor somewhere in LDN.
Thanks for joining me for a chat Kai, it’s often, and understandable, that it’s the DJ/artists that get the shine with the interviews, but there’s always that person (or people) in the background, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. You’re someone that has not only pieced together some great puzzles over the past few years, you are not what is deemed to be a typical money hungry club promoter, so I’m going to try and delve a bit deeper and see what makes you tick?
You often see either fake positivity (all ‘What a great night’ when it was a total flop) or bitchiness from a lot of club promoters these days on social media, but thankfully you buck that trend. Obviously you have had a huge success with Abode, but would you be any different of you hit a rocky patch?
If I’m totally honest, we didn’t have a great start back in September 2014 when we first started. We launched the party with a huge line-up including Dyed Soundorom , Waff , Audiofly and No Artificial Colours, which cost us an arm and a leg. Even though it made huge noise on the scene, the party went on to lose a lot of money on the launch and the two events that followed.
Luckily for me, I work with most London promoters and promote their nights for free across our socials, so we have a pretty good relationship and try not to get involved in politics and bitchiness etc.
If we were to hit a rocky patch we would sit down as a team and look at where we went wrong and fix the issue to make the next party the best we’ve ever done.
It’s not all been plain sailing of course, you had an unfortunate situation through Summer with the Exodus Ibizan boat parties. Can you elaborate on what went wrong there perhaps and what you learnt from that experience?
I had a stinker this Summer with Exodus, the new luxury super yacht party. I was employed as an operations manager and arrived on the island mid-April, to help set up all the marketing, promo, recruitment for the yacht. After eight weeks of working my arse off in Ibiza, I found out the boat never had a license and was never going to dock on the island. I’m not 100% on what went on, as the island is very political and I learnt that you can’t just turn up with a new business and look at taking on the island big dogs without facing consequences. RIP Exodus.
Plenty of UK promoters have tried to tackle Ibiza and found out the hard way. Do you think there is a particular formula to making it work over there? There have been many in the past that have followed a seemingly standard blueprint, but still not worked out as expected.
I think with Ibiza, it doesn’t matter if you are the number one event in London or the UK. It’s different gravy on the white isle. I’ve seen promoters over the years lose everything, including their brand due to committing to a weekly party that hasn’t pulled big crowds. With so many huge events on in Ibiza and most being FREE you need to have serious balls and cash flow to make it in Ibiza. Shouts to Defected who dominate Tuesdays on the island and who are such an inspirational brand and an event I look up too.
You live in Ibiza full time now, surely that perspective of seeing what it’s like come rain or shine, helps massively and is probably better for you and your families wellbeing too? Sure beats the London rat race!?
I’m based full time in Ibiza and it’s a place I never expected to spend a full Summer in, let alone a Winter. This Winter has been amazing for networking. It’s a place where you
can go for a coffee and be surrounded by agents, artists, club owners, all locking down 2016 and it’s definitely been the best move for me and my family.
You recently held a charity event Dance For Bill where you raised money for MacMillan Cancer Research and also bought a wheelchair accessible vehicle for Bill with the proceeds. It’s great to see the industry giving back in that way, but there’s not much of it going on. You have Sam Divine’s La Vita charity events and a few others. Would you consider joining forces with the other house music charity events, to do one huge fundraiser?
Anybody that is a friend of mine will know I’m a very giving person. I always look out for my family 99% before myself. When I saw Bill’s story on Facebook, it really resonated with me and made me think of my granddad that passed away a few years back from Cancer after spending his final days in a hospice. Two years ago Bill was fit as fiddle and living a normal life but now it has really affected Bill and his family’s life. When I found out that he was house bound, due to not having transport and the NHS not being able to supply him with taxis etc. I felt we could help. So we put on Dance for Bill and managed to secure a HUGE line-up with no costs and over £25,000 raised. We managed to buy a brand new car for Bill’s family and also donate to McMillan.
Sam is inspirational, she’s a good friend I turn to for advice and she has been there for me since day one of promoting. She is by far the most humble, giving DJ in the UK. I would love to link up one day with her and the charity and raise even more money. Let’s see what the future holds.
It’s good to have that more collaborative approach, as it opens you, your brand and ultimately your loyal clubbing fans to new, perhaps unexpected good times. You’ve teamed up with Wunderground recently, which was an interesting pairing. Have there been any enquiries you’ve laughed at and straight up hit delete?
I met Mikey and the Wunderground crew in Ibiza this year and the guys are absolute legends. As you may know, we try not to take the scene too seriously at Abode, so when
Wunderground approached us and suggested doing a live stream globally, we couldn’t turn it down. Abode is huge in London and I think Wunderground can help us reach out across the UK even more.
At Abode you have a strong team of residents who know what your events and you’ve been growing together. How important do you feel it is to have loyal residents around you that have a real understanding of what the party is about, as opposed to ticket seller type DJs who really don’t care and just want a gig?
Abode is ALL about my residents, I have DJs that want to play and moan that they are billed below my residents and unfortunately I have to break the news that it’s not going to be any different. Events come and go and DJs come and go, but I believe if you build a loyal team around you they can make the party into a global success like FUSE have done over the years. 75% of my residents don’t produce music, but they deliver on the Studio 338 terrace and make some of the best memories for our clubbers lives.
I saw the pictures for the Abode residents photo shoot. There was a lot of black clothing going on. Did you not think at some point ‘Sod it, lets all wear a load of crazy 90s Moschino’?
To be honest I’m not really sure why we had black on? I’m pretty sure it was the videographer who suggested it and I trusted him to make the right decisions and the photos have come out well. That being said, a load of vintage Moschino would’ve looked fucking sick.
A few months back you said “£150 a set and you’ve learnt to mix off CDJs this year, don’t ever inbox me for a set” I assume you’re inundated with requests to DJ for Abode, but do you tend to ignore most of them? Is there something that would catch your eye, say for instance, if someone actually done you a real mixtape on a TDK90?
As people know I’m not an expert or massive music head. I chuck parties because I enjoy chucking parties. I love house, tech, garage and I believe if the crowd are happy and the comments are positive about your party, month in, month out, why not mix it up? I get 10-20 messages a day from DJs in their early 20s asking for a set. They have never been to Abode, have been DJing a year and want paying. As much as I would love to pay all DJs, it’s not great for business when you have signed producers offering to play for FREE to get their name on an Abode flyer.
I didn’t expect Abode to blow up like this, so it’s still relatively new to me and I’m still learning and occasionally making mistakes myself, no ones perfect. However, my advice is play for FREE week in, week out, until you are in a position to charge £150 a set. London is oversaturated with young DJs, so promoters want ticket sellers, not people that cost them money to book. I would like to say for the record: WE DONT HAVE TICKET SELLERS at Abode.
I mentioned social media earlier. It’s safe to say that your social media game is strong and you have a loyal following across the platforms. Do you think you would’ve preferred Abode’s success pre-social media, or do you perhaps think it may not have been as successful in those days?
We do dominate social media and that’s down to me dedicating my life to growing all our channels. I think if we had launched before September 2014, I think we would’ve had a smaller party with maybe an older crowd, but I decided to go big quick, as well as being picky with our crowd. We dropped the capacity from 3000 to 2000 at Studio 338 this Summer, after reading some negative comments about Abode losing its vibe and that has worked. But one think I would say, is that if you are a promoter that doesn’t use Instagram and Twitter and rely on Facebook, it’s going to be hard to sell parties out. Facebook is dead. It’s all about Instagram and Twitter in my eyes.
So you’d go so far as to say that Facebook is pretty much a write off as far as club promoting goes?
Facebook, for us, sells a few tickets, but it’s nowhere near as important as Instagram is. Instagram has a much better reach in my opinion. A video on Instagram gets 600 likes, the same one of Facebook only gets 23 likes. Do I need to say anything more?
I don’t want to give you too many flashbacks, but you used to work in the City of London, doing the whole suited and booted thing. Was there anything you learnt in those days, that you’ve carried over as part of your skillset in to club promoting?
I was an investment broker for years in the City and actually lost my job, my house and my whole life savings in 2013. That situation showed me that life can change overnight without any warning. I’ve always been known as a salesman and a bit of blagger, so maybe that’s worked to my advantage in promoting, maybe it hasn’t?
You have an Abode event on the 28th floor of one of London’s tallest buildings on the 16th January. The tickets sold out in a really short period of time. Do you think the whole myth of people just staying in January is nonsense these days?
If you have a party that is in demand and with lots of HYPE you can sell out Christmas Day. I think we are in a position now, where we can sell out any date, good or bad, but as I said before, you can lose everything overnight, if you have an issue on the day of your event. January was our fastest selling party and sold out in less than ten minutes.
I’m glad you’re a bit of a Craig David fan too. Looks like we are both looking forward to a Craig David renaissance in 2016. Is there anyone else you’d like to see make a comeback from that era?
I grew up listening to Craig David. I think Garage has the potential to come back in a large way on the Island. I remember 2000-2002 in San Antonio with Garage Nation; Twice as Nice etc and they dominated the scene. So yeah, I would love UKG to make a proper come back
Whilst talking about looking forward and what 2016 may bring, what more can we expect from you and Abode in 2016, beyond your high rise rave at the weekend?
2016 will see a step up in line-ups and production at Studio 338. We have 3 UK festivals locked down, 2 festivals outside of the UK and I’m currently trying to lock down Ibiza 2016 as we speak.